Forest Shamans: The Sacred Tree and Narratives of the Folk History

Abstract

This paper examines the oral narratives of female shamans and people involved in their religious practices in modern Japan. Narratives are told and retold, ultimately becoming traditional oral histories that are closely related to local people’s lives. This paper discusses the ways in which such narratives make and can be read as folk history. As a case study, I consider the narratives of female shamans in a village in Yamaguchi Prefecture, where a legendary, 1,000-year-old tree is said to be the burial place of warhorses that fought for the local lords in the 15th century. In the early 1990s, a small hermitage called Chigusu-Ann was built and hundreds of carved wooden dolls were housed in it. Made by female shamans, these wooden dolls were regarded as children, where the souls of dead samurai warriors dwell. I conducted intermittent surveys in the village for 10 years starting in 1990 and collected the narratives of female shamans and other locals who were involved in the construction of this hermitage. Focusing on the multidimensional structures of the narratives, I will probe into the ways in which the traditional worldview centered on the sacred tree is linked to the people’s lived experience and even their “pre-life,” that is, the time of their ancestors. I would argue that this linkage creates the practice of concrete actions.



Author Information
Aki Tokumaru, University of Tsukuba, Japan

Paper Information
Conference: ACCS2021
Stream: History

This paper is part of the ACCS2021 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by amp21